Anya Marquardt is a sophomore English major with a minor in journalism.
Recent reports have come out targeting Amazon for exposing their workers to inhumane conditions. Amid these reports, Amazon workers across the country have been moving towards forming labor unions in order to gain extra protection and rights in the workplace.
Despite the recent news of a union vote failing to pass in Alabama, Amazon workers are in the right by taking the step to unionize. Unions provide job and workplace protection to their members and having a unionized workforce could make all the difference regarding the workplace issues faced by Amazon employees.
In a recently leaked internal memo, Amazon revealed they have been aware of the poor conditions faced by workers. An area manager sent out an email in May 2020 asking driving managers to speak to their drivers about messes left behind in their trucks after trash; including masks, gloves, bottles of urine and bags containing human feces.
This situation did not come as a surprise to some of the company’s workers, who cited long working hours and an impossible delivery quota for the reasoning behind it. One worker told The Intercept that this occurs “because we are literally implicitly forced to do so, otherwise we will end up losing our jobs for too many ‘undelivered packages.” These workers are put through stress-inducing hours where they have to give up their basic humane functions in fear of losing their jobs.
Amazon sent several more memos about the urine bottles, telling workers that they should check their trucks “thoroughly” for garbage and urine bottles. They also threatened “Tier 1 Infraction,” which is said to lead to termination, if they find urine bottles in trucks during debrief periods. Amazon is continuing to threaten punishment for a problem instead of attempting to solve it.
Even though workers have spoken out about the ridiculous workload that is expected of them, Amazon stays silent. These workers need to unionize so that they will have the ability to push against the company and do something about these crises.
Amazon drivers are now being asked to sign “biometric consent” forms in order to keep their jobs. Signing these forms allows for AI-powered cameras to be installed, which would watch over Amazon drivers during their work hours. This is a major invasion of privacy; workers should not be required to sign over their biometrics so their employers can see their every move for their entire shift.
You may wonder: what happens to the nearly 75,000 drivers who do not sign the consent form? They lose their jobs. They should not be forced to make a choice that will require them to leave their privacy in the hands of a multi-billion dollar company.
Amazon has taken up a severe anti-union stance to where they are posting anti-union flyers in bathroom stalls in their factories. Company executives are concerned about the formulation of a union because it could hinder their expansion of technological innovations, like robots, which would reduce reliance on human workers and would eventually lead to major layoffs.
Amazon would also face greater issues with hiring “temporary workers” for seasonal times, as unions would prioritize job security for its employees. Monetary and efficiency purposes drive Amazon’s concerns, just like most large corporations. However, these priorities are the causes of their employees’ struggles, and the formation of a union for Amazon workers would be the strong start that employees need to protect themselves.
It’s time for Amazon to take accountability over how they treat their workers.